Food wars update – Trader Joe’s, Lidl and Acme

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Good afternoon,

An update on last week’s column on the grocery wars.

One reader noted that Acme owner Albertsons and area shoppers could benefit from the giant chain buying up a couple of dozen upscale Balducci’s and Kings markets in the New York area.

The thinking is that converting to the upscale format and branding might work at smaller Acme stores, including the oft-criticized location in Trolly Square, Wilmington.

Meanwhile, a fence is up at the former Sak’s off Fifth location at Christiana Fashion Center in preparation for the conversion of the off-price store site into a Trader Joe’s.A building permit was issued back in April.

Trader Joe’s has not commented on the store and generally does not make any formal mention until shortly before the location is opened.

To the south, heavy equipment from Newark-area roadbuilder A-Del is preparing the former Countryside Garden Center site off Route 40 for New Castle County’s second Lidl. Lidl has two other locations in Middletown and Dover.The Bear Lidl location is across the highway from a recently remodeled Food Lion store.

Lidl has been building smaller stores from scratch. Like its fellow German rival Aldi, Lidl focuses on discounted prices on private label products.

Trader Joe’s – which is one of the holdings of a branch of the family that owns Aldi – likes existing strip and lifestyle center locations. More recently, the grocer has been moving into urban locations in New York.

Fans of Trader Joe’s would like to see its discounted Charles Shaw wine on the shelves. Dubbed Two Buck Chuck, the brand costs as little as $1.99 in California and runs as high as $4 on the East Coast. Trader Joe’s has sold a billion bottles of the discount wine that gets decent reviews despite its bargain-basement price.

The hang-up in Delaware involves the state liquor laws, which, at present require a walled-off area. That might not work within the smaller footprint of Trader Joe’s stores.

Meanwhile, neighboring Pennsylvania has loosened its beer and wine laws to allow supermarket sales.

Even without a wine department Trader Joe’s will hit a home run with the Christiana – which has only one grocery department at the mall’s Target store.

Trader Joe’s operates throughout the nation and is accustomed to the bewildering provisions of state and local liquor laws. The company already has a thriving wine-free location off Concord Pike in north Wilmington.

In Delaware, lobbying efforts by a coalition of liquor store owners and distributors has routinely tamped down any efforts to allow supermarket sales or direct shipments of wine. – Doug Rainey, chief content officer.

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